For several years, my morning walk took me past a house where two young girls stood at the corner of their yard, backpacks at their feet, waiting for the bus to school.
As the two sisters chatted, sometimes peering down the street to see if their ride was near, it was obvious that they were now looking ahead.
What they didn’t seem to notice — but what I always saw — was their mother, slightly hidden by the gauze of the living room curtain, quietly watching her two daughters, not ready to start her day until she had seen them safely board the bus. I caught that scene a hundred times on my morning walks, and it never ceased to move me — those girls, about to go off for another day on their own, cheerfully oblivious to a mother still standing guard, making sure they were OK.
It reminded me of a small but powerful truth. If we’re lucky enough to have a mother, there’s a pretty good chance that she’s thinking about us and hoping the best for us, even when we assume we’re beyond her orbit, out in the world by ourselves.
I’ve been thinking about this since the close of last summer, when my wife and I started our first year in more than two decades without children in the house. Our daughter’s off in college, and our son started boarding at a high school for gifted children some three hours away. They’ll both be home soon for the vacation break, but even when their rooms are empty, thoughts of them fill our days.
We know that our children have their own lives to sort out, that doing so without our help is how they’ll grow up.
So we don’t call them all the time, don’t shadow their every move. With distance has come the chance for my wife and I to reconnect with the things we did before children came along.
But we cheer them from afar, observers along the finish line of a race our children have only now begun to run. “She has her business finance exam today,” my wife will say over breakfast, and I need no explanation about who that “she” might be. We sip coffee and cross our fingers, trying to send a little luck toward the girl my wife once carried, who’s now become a young woman in a university, filling in 50 blanks at the end of a semester.
My wife scans the weather news and hopes that our son, nearly 200 miles up the road, remembered to pack his jacket. She would, if granted the gift of mind over matter, use it to will a coat onto his shoulders.
Mother’s Day is the one day we set aside to think about our mothers. For the rest of the year, even when we can’t see them, be assured that they’re thinking about us.
Follow Danny Heitman on Twitter, @Danny_Heitman.